AMSTERDAM — River cruise giant Viking’s move into ocean cruising is poised to accelerate with the line operating six vessels at sea as early as September 2020.
A company executive on Tuesday revealed an official timetable for the arrival of its fifth and sixth ocean ships: June 2018 and September 2020, respectively. As previously announced, three other ships on order will debut by late 2017.
All of the ships will be sisters to the company’s first ocean ship, the 930-passengerViking Star, which debuted in April 2015.
The disclosure of a firm timetable for the arrival of the company’s fifth and sixth ocean ships came during a press conference preceding the christening of six Viking river ships along the Amsterdam waterfront.
Offering an updated outlook for Viking’s expansion into ocean cruising, Viking executive Jeff Dash said the company would take delivery of its second ocean ship, Viking Sea, on March 24 from the shipyard in Italy where it has been under construction for more than a year. The next two vessels in the series, Viking Sky and Viking Sun, are now scheduled for delivery on Feb. 15, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2017, respectively, Dash said.
Dash then went on to list the months for the debut of Viking’s fifth and sixth ships, which he called “unnamed one” and “to-be-named two,” apparently forgetting that such specifics had yet to be publicly announced.
“But I don’t think we’ve announced all of them yet, have we,” he said, turning to other Viking executives at the press conference.
“No, we haven’t,” said a company spokesperson sitting in the back, who then added, laughing, “we just did.”
Viking’s rollout of new ships is on track to be one of the fastest on record for a new ocean line. Assuming the timetable holds, Viking will surpass one of its closet competitors, Azamara Club Cruises, in passenger capacity later this month, and it’ll be bigger than rival Oceania Cruises by 2020. Including a new ship starting service in April, Oceania’s vessels now have a capacity for 5,236 passengers at double occupancy. Viking’s planned rollout of ships will give it a capacity of 5,580 passengers by 2020. Oceania has no new ships on the way after April.
Viking is competing closely with Azamara and Oceania with similarly upscale, destination-focused voyages on ships in the 650 to 1,250 passenger range.
Viking also soon will have more capacity than luxury lines Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises, which also operate small- to medium-size ships. Viking is poised to surpass all three lines in passenger capacity by early next year.
Speaking at a dinner Tuesday night following the river ship christening, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen once again said the company is aiming for at least 10 ocean ships in addition to 100 river ships — numbers he has thrown out at company events several times over the past two years. The company currently operates 56 river ships in Europe and markets several more river vessels in Asia.
Hagen said bookings for Viking’s new ocean cruises are strong. The company has made waves in the ocean cruise industry the past year with its emphasis on a “no nickel-and-diming” philosophy that is relatively rare even on upscale lines. It offers complimentary Internet access to all passengers and an included tour in every port. Both are hallmarks of river cruising that have never caught on with ocean lines. Beer and wine also is complimentary with lunch and dinner on Viking ships, and even little things like movies on the interactive televisions in rooms and the ship’s self-serve laundry machines are available at no extra charge.
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